Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Six top books about crime & colonialism at the U.S.-Mexico border

Bruce McCandless III grew up in the shadow of Houston’s Johnson Space Center during the Apollo and Skylab eras. He graduated from the Plan II Honors Program of the University of Texas in 1983 and went on to earn degrees from the University of Reading in England and the University of Texas School of Law. After teaching at Saint David’s School in New York City, he returned to Austin to practice law and retired as general counsel of Superior HealthPlan in 2019. He is the author of Sour Lake (2011), Beatrice and the Basilisk (2014), and, with his daughter Carson, Carson Clare’s Trail Guide to Avoiding Death (And Other Unpleasant Consequences) (2017).

His latest work, In the Land of Dead Horses, is a spine-tingling tale of Texas history and supernatural terror. A prequel to 2011’s Sour Lake, In the Land of Dead Horses reintroduces readers to Texas Ranger Jewel Lightfoot and his macabre world of double-barreled demon hunting.

At CrimeReads McCandless tagged six books "to truly understand the currents of violence and criminality that run just below the surface of U.S.-Mexican relations," including:
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Jupiter of the border fiction solar system, a sort of Bible of blood and bad feeling, McCarthy’s 1985 masterpiece chronicles the relationship of two men—the Kid and the bizarre, possibly supernatural Judge—as they immerse themselves in murder and mayhem from Texas down into Mexico and back again. Set against the horrific true tale of the 1842 Mier Expedition, Blood Meridian has enough apocalyptic prose and dreamlike distancing to double as a script for the end of the world. Truly horrific and stunning, not quite allegorical but not entirely real either, you’ll want to wash your hands after reading this one—and maybe scrub your soul while you’re at it. For a more recent treatment of similar themes, try the 2021 film “The Forever Purge” (seriously).
Read about another entry on the list.

Blood Meridian is one authority's pick for the Great Texas novel; it is among Paul Howarth's top ten tales from the frontier, Craig DiLouie’s ten top fantasy books steeped in the Southern Gothic, Graham McTavish's six best books, ShortList's roundup of literature's forty greatest villains, Brian Boone's five great novels that will probably never be made into movies, Sarah Porter's five best books with unusual demons and devils, Chet Williamson's top ten novels about deranged killers, Callan Wink's ten best books set in the American West, Simon Sebag Montefiore's six favorite books, Richard Kadrey's five books about awful, awful people, Jason Sizemore's top five books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, Robert Allison's top ten novels of desert war, Alexandra Silverman's top fourteen wrathful stories, James Franco's six favorite books, Philipp Meyer's five best books that explain America, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, David Vann's six favorite books, Robert Olmstead's six favorite books, Michael Crummey's top ten literary feuds, Philip Connors's top ten wilderness books, six books that made a difference to Kazuo Ishiguro, Clive Sinclair's top 10 westerns, Maile Meloy's six best books, and David Foster Wallace's five direly underappreciated post-1960 U.S. novels. It appears on the New York Times list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years and among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

--Marshal Zeringue